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Canon 5D Mark II's manual video controls arrive

Canon answers complaints with firmware update to enable videographers to set ISO, aperture, and shutter speed with fully manual video mode on Canon's $2,700 SLR.

Half a year after the camera's debut, Canon released promised firmware that updates its vaunted EOS 5D Mark II SLR with the ability to manually control camera settings while shooting video.

The much-desired feature lets users set aperture, ISO sensitivity, and shutter speed manually. It was the first Canon SLR to support video, and the only one so far that can shoot 1080p video at 30 frames per second, but previously it only could shoot video in a fully automatic mode.

The firmware 1.1.0 update is available from Canon's Web site, as are update instructions (PDF).

The omission led to much carping among those who expected more control over their imagery from a 21.1-megapixel SLR that costs $2,700 with no lenses. For example, people couldn't specifically set a wide aperture to attain a shallow depth of field that blurs the background behind the video subject, a cinematographic effect that's hard to attain with standard point-and-shoot video.

The new video mode is activated using the standard controls for setting ISO, aperture, and shutter speed after the camera dial is set to the "M" mode for manual shooting. See the excerpt from the user manual update below for details.

On my camera, the update took about two minutes to install and my testing showed that the feature worked as advertised. The firmware fixes five other glitches, too; the full list is at the bottom of this post.

Update 8:30 a.m. PDT: Contrary what I found earlier, aperture and shutter speed can be changed while you're shooting. Of course doing so shakes the camera and adds audible noise if you're using the built-in microphone, and exposure changes in fixed steps, not smooth transitions, that are pretty glaring in the video.

You also can set ISO to "auto," in which case the camera makes its best guess about exposure while leaving shutter speed and aperture alone.


Aside from the video feature, here's what Canon says firmware 1.1.0 fixes:

• Disables the function of the depth-of-field preview button when images are played back or when the menu screen is displayed on the LCD panel.

• Fixes a phenomenon where the peripheral illumination of images cannot be properly corrected, even if the images were captured with the lens peripheral illumination correction function set to Enable. Digital Photo Professional software version 3.6.1 or later (for Windows and Macintosh) can be used to automatically correct the peripheral illumination of raw and JPEG images that were captured in the Peripheral Illumination Correction setting with cameras that have Firmware Version 1.0.7 or earlier.

• Fixes the algorithms of the Auto Lighting Optimizer function when Custom Function C.Fn II-3 Highlight tone priority is enabled.

• Fixes incorrect indications on the Arabic, Romanian, Spanish, and Ukrainian menu screens.

• Changes the battery information displayed on the camera when using the optional Battery Grip BG-E6.